Flor Rodriguez lives in a busy house with five grandchildren. It’s important for the retired casino worker to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“For protection. I need to go to the store,” she said. And to doctors’ appointments and the pharmacy. “For everything.”
Rodriguez, 72, was first in line with her husband, Victor, early Friday morning to get vaccinated at Jermone Mack Middle School in east Las Vegas. The school clinic is the kind of smaller-scale mass vaccination site officials say they want in their lineup alongside megasites like the Cashman Center: neighborhood-based and accessible for a variety of socioeconomic classes.
Mack, for example, is in the east valley in the 89121 zip code, which U.S. Census data show to be a racially diverse area where 43% of the population is Latino and the typical annual household income is about $42,000; about 18% of people live below the poverty line. As seniors remain the top priority for the limited vaccinations, this neighborhood also trends slightly older. More than 10% of residents are at least 70.
Las Vegas City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz, whose district includes this pocket of the east side, has received lots of questions from seniors in her community, which has been disproportionately affected by the virus, since the vaccine came out in December.
“I know that all of us want a vaccination as soon as possible. We’ve been talking for months since COVID hit about frontline workers. We see you, we know you need it. But our seniors need it too,” Diaz said. “We’re doing our best to get these vaccinations to everyone across our community here in Southern Nevada. Be persistent — check that (appointment booking) website over and over and over. You may not land your appointment on your first visit. Also, help us help the seniors that may not be able to navigate the technology themselves. It’s super-important that this become a community effort.”
The Mack site filled the gymnasium, with bilingual English-Spanish signage throughout and bilingual staffers to help deliver more information. A station where nurses filled syringes from Pfizer vials sat atop the school’s painted mascot, a snorting bull, right at center court.
David Parker was impressed with how orderly the operation was, and he said he didn’t even feel the poke. As a court process server, Parker, 65, qualifies as a member of a frontline community support occupation, where he mingles with the public all day.
But one person Parker hasn’t even met: his newest baby granddaughter. When he’s fully protected against the virus, he’ll be traveling to Texas to see her.
“I feel great, and I’m hopeful everybody can get these as soon as possible,” the grandfather of seven said from the post-shot medical observation area. “This is a terrible, terrible tragedy that’s happened to us.”
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